Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Ok...

So I'm logging in post number 100 for 2010.

Happy New Year!

And here's hoping that 2011 brings you good health and prosperity.

Fall River Thoughts

First Night
 
I miss First Night. I didn't go every year, and probably missed more than I attended but I have fond memories of the ones that I did go to.
 
I can remember ice sculptures near Government Center and the "ice rink" set up between it and the post office. I remember a Broadway review at the library and a country singer at Quackers. I remember fireworks cascading down the facade of Government Center and indoor fireworks at the Bank Street Armory. I remember a magician who made the Mayor disappear. I remember a few winters so cold that walking venue to venue was a test of endurance!
 
Polar Plunge
 
A little advice for Mayor Flanagan, Councilor Casey and the rest. I caught a little news piece about another Polar Plunge and they offered some advice. Basically when it's cold sand can hurt, so protect your feet. The guy on the radio suggested wearing old sneakers, although he said flip flops or water shoes would work also. I've been down to "Sandy Beach" and let me tell you there isn't a grain of sand to be found. It should have been called "Rocky Point" but I guess that name was taken. So dig in your closets and find an old beat up pair of sneakers. Apparently some also wear hats to help keep themselves warm, not sure I see that making much of a difference.
 
King Philip Lunch
 
I happened to be in the area tonight and saw the lights on. The place looked locked up and empty. Is this a good sign? Is a new owner getting ready to paint and spruce up a bit?
 
Mayor's Race
 
How soon will it be before people start announcing their intentions to run for Mayor in 2011? I will practically guarantee that Cathy Ann Viveiros will make another run and I would be surprised if Brad Kilby didn't throw his hat in the ring.
 
Back to the plunge..
 
Speaking of the Polar Plunge, who do you guess will end up wearing the Speedo?
 
99
 
This is the 99th post of the year and if I wrap it up quickly hopefully I can put number 100 out right behind it. I have this odd sense of math where i expect to blog about 4 posts a month but somehow magically reach 100 for the year. What's really upsetting is to realize that Mike Moran does one column a week and gets paid for doing it. That's not a knock against Mr. Moran but damn 52 articles versus 100 posts.. and most of mine are pretty damn wordy...
 
5 Minutes to go...
 
4... 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Taking in the Z

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a performance of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra at the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford. I've long been familiar with the Z but I've never actually gone there. Occasionally I would hear about some event that would pique my interest but never quite enough to actually go. However the performance of the NBSO was family friendly, very affordable and not too long. It seemed to be a perfect holiday activity.
 
Now I really had no idea what to expect when driving to the Z. I was worried about parking. I was worried about how far away I might be since I was sitting in the "cheap seats". I had driven by the Zeiterion a few times before and thought that the building was so unremarkable that you could easily drive by it and never know there was theatre there.
 
As it turned out parking was a pleasure with the parking being located right next door and free that day! The Z itself was delightful. I couldn't after one brief visit due justice in describing but the lobby the elegant and the theatre itself charming, cozy, intimate. I may had had the worst seats in the place and they were still great seats.
 
As I sat and listened my eyes moved around the theatre taking in all the details. The orchestra sounded great and my ticket had cost me just $15. And while there were several available seats the turnout was really quite good. The Z can seat about 1,200 patrons and I would guess there were maybe 800 there for that performance.
 
Now, as it turns out I had placed to go and right after the show I headed back to Fall River but I definitely would go back. And honestly I could see looking for a some little nearby place to grab a bite to eat before or after the show and making more of a day of it.
 
The one thought that kept running through my head was why don't we have this sort of thing in Fall River?
 
Of course they almost didn't have that sort of thing in New Bedford either. The Zeiterion was slated to become a parking lot when local preservationists stepped in and saved it. With the help of a lot of state money the Zeiterion was restored to the jewel it is today. Tragically at around the same time this was all taking place, Fall River was losing some of its last remaining downtown theaters. The Center Theatre closing in the late 70's and apparently City Councilor Marilyn Roderick fought to save it.  More crushing is the Academy closed in 1979. If any downtown theatre deserved to be saved and restored it has to be the Academy, which at that time had just recently celebrated its 100th birthday. The Center may or may not still exist somewhere in the building that occupies the site today. Some claim it's the same building just heavily remodeled others say it's a new structure entirely. The Academy would be saved at least its historical facade but all traces of its history as a performing arts center and movie house are gone forever.
 
Of course we now know that one theatre did survive, the Capitol. The Capitol is an amazing story because the theatre closed and became a bowling alley and then became a retail store and through it all this large cavernous space remained largely intact. And thankfully the people who currently own it really want to see it restored. But for some reason the big push just hasn't been there. Oh I realize that a tough economy hasn't helped but I'm convinced that for the Capitol to ever become a performing arts center it needs a big push with city backing
 
After finally taking in the Z I'm more convinced than ever that it would be tragedy if we don't find a way to bring back the Cap.

Consider it an upgrade..Mike Miozza for City Council

Mike Miozza is making his 3rd run for the Fall River city council. Mike ran (unsuccessfully) in 2007 & 2009 and is kicking things of early for a run in 2011. He's hoping the early start with help push him over the hump and into a council seat. When Mike lost in 2007 I said it was my biggest disappointment of election day. I said the same thing in 2009.
 
I've always tried to reach out and get to know the candidates for local office. I do this even more so since I've been blogging.  Of all the candidates I've talked to Mike Miozza has always struck me as one of the most honest and sincere. I've found him to be intelligent with good ideas and sound reasoning. I've found him to be humble! Mike doesn't act like the city needs him, he has always come across as someone who just wants to work to make a difference. When I've talked to Mike I've always gotten the impression that he was really listening and that I had his attention. I think Mike has a good sense of what direction the city needs to move in for its long term future as well as the improvements we need to make today.
 
Honestly take a good look at our current City Council. Are you really going to tell me replacing one of our sitting members with Mike Miozza wouldn't be an upgrade? I can think of 4 councilors without hesitation that I would gladly replace with Mike Miozza. Hell, a bigger challenge would be to argue what councilors shouldn't be booted off in favor of Mike. When you start seriously thinking about what candidates to vote for come election day instead of voting for the same folks who have been there year after year after year it's time for an upgrade. Consider giving your vote to Mike Miozza. 
 

What's Happened to the Blogosphere?

When I published my first blog post in February of 2006 the local blogosphere seemed small. A few months before I launched A View From Battleship Cove local radio host Keri Rodrigues launched her blog The Keri Rodrigues Broadcast. Although there were some other local blogs in the area none of the others focused on the local happenings of our community.
 
That first year I joked a lot about my "six loyal readers" but as the election season got underway in 2007 more and more people began to discover the blog and they let me know they were reading. And suddenly more blogs started to pop up. At this point so many have come and gone that I can't even remember them all. But for a while there always seemed to be a steady core of local bloggers. At first it was The Keri Rodrigues Broadcast, A View From Battleship Cove, & Fall River Community. At some point Keri's blog seemed to become an issue at the workplace and as her blogging decreased we suddenly found ourselves with another core blogger stepping in. The lineup was now A View From Battleship Cove, Fall River Community, & Fall River-tastic. Other blogs would pop up...and usually just sort of fade away a few months later.
 
Even when Fall River Community closed up shop another blog, this time Chowmeinsammich, stepped in. The last year or so has seen a handful of other bloggers join the fray. But for some reason the local blogosphere seems to be less than it was when we started the year!
 
Fall River-tastic has posted 37 times versus 128 times in 2009. That's a 71% drop!
 
Chowmeinsammich has posted 143 times this year but no new posts since October.
 
Fall River Undercover has only posted 8 times since launching the blog over 1 year ago.
 
Southcoast Citizens Soapbox has posted only 14 times in 2010 (versus 55 in 2009)  and the last post was over 3 months ago.
 
Into the Breach started off strong with 7 posts in May and 7 in June but nothing since then.
 
I'm not bringing this up to criticize because I think 2010 has been an off year for me as well. I'm struggling to hit my "goal" of 100 posts (4 more to go!) but it's been a year where maintaining the blog has taken a bit more effort. I know for a fact that in the case of some bloggers 2010 has just been a hectic year where blogging has just taken a back seat. But I also wonder if there is just less interest in blogging. After all why go through the trouble of creating a blog and writing posts and trying to build a readership if you can just post your opinions on the comment section of the local newspaper? (Something that was not an option back in 2006!)
 
Anyway, as 2011 quickly approaches I'm ready to pound the keyboard a little longer. There are just too many things to look forward to. What will happen with the Biopark (and the casino). Who will run for City Council? Will anyone run against Flanagan? A View From Battleship Cove also has some milestones to hit in 2011 with its 5th anniversary and 500th post in site.  So hopefully there is enough interest out there to keep you reading and hopefully 2011 will be comeback year for local blogging.
 
 
 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Is it warm where you are?

It's 20 degrees outside right now. It's still dark and I suspect in many homes people are trying to squeeze in those last moments of sleep before they have to get up. In many apartments getting up will mean leaving a warm bed and padding across a very cold apartment and then turning up the space heater so the living room or kitchen will heat up to toastier temperatures.
 
Throughout the city coffee is brewing and people are jumping into hot showers.
 
But what if you're homeless?
 
Five local churches are ready to begin a patchwork solution to provide shelter for Fall River's homeless. Starting Sunday the churches will take turns, providing overflow shelter services. Is it enough? Starting SUNDAY. It's 20 degrees outside where would you spend the night if the shelters were full? The other night as we prepared for blizzard-like conditions where did the city's homeless go?
 
The Salvation Army used to provide overflow shelter services until tougher regulations made that impossible. Regulations to improve safety seem like a good thing but there seems to be a lack of common sense when such regulations work to keep you safer from the RISK of fire versus the near certainty of freezing to death. Thankfully Representative David Sullivan took up the cause and was able to get some flexibility in the regulations. Why was he the only member of the local delegation to do so? On the city-side Councilor Eric Poulin worked with Sullivan and The Rev. Donald Mier of the First Baptist Church to come up the rotating church plan. Eric has brought up the issue of the city's homeless before. In fact I recall trading some emails with him on the subject as far back as 2007. So it's great to see Councilor Poulin focusing on issues that he has in the past campaigned on. But why isn't it on anyone Else's radar?
 
In November of 2008 the Herald News ran an article that basically said there were enough beds to handle the needs of the city's homeless but an increase could overtax the various agencies that provide shelter services. In January 2009 I blogged about this and stated that the agencies were already crying that there was an increase. What happened? What's been done? By the end of 2009 I was pointing out that I wasn't aware of any long term plans to deal with the issue and as it turns out up in Boston regulations were being put into place to make the problem worse not better.
 
Over the last several years there is no doubt we have seen clear visible signs of a homeless population in our city. It's appalling that another Winter is upon us and we still haven't come up with a long term plan to address this, the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 - The Year in Review

 
Republican State Senator Scott Brown surprises everyone by winning a special election to fill the seat of the late (U.S.) Senator Ted Kennedy. The Mashpee Wampanoag's consider Fall River as the location of a possible casino.
 
 
A View From Battleship Cove celebrates its 4th anniversary. State Senator Joan Menard confirms she will not seek reelection. An A View From Battleship Cove Coffee Mug does a little traveling!
 
 
City Councilors Joe Camara and Linda Pereira are cleared of ethics charges. Heavy rains wreak havoc with local dams. A professional basketball team considers a Fall River franchise.
 
 
My mind is obviously not on the city as I talk about grills and seafood. Mayor Flanagan however concerns himself with a dire budget situation and announces plans on hosting several public forums.
 
 
With the new court house getting ready to open the issue of parking suddenly hits the news. The casino issue heats up. The city council hears about the plans for the new Morton Middle. Shawn Cadime  is tapped as the new city administrator.
 
 
Former Fall River Superintendent Dr. Nick Fischer gets mostly high marks in his new position as Superintendent in New London, CT. Meanwhile Fall River School Committee member Joe Martins gets into hot water over some remarks concerning Boston's Gay Pride Parade. Mayor Flanagan announces plans for a Downtown Farmer's Market.
 
 
Former Mayor John Arruda passes away. The RDA votes to sell 300 acres to the Mashpee Wampanoags. The legislature agrees in principle to a gaming bill.
 
 
City Councilor Brian Bigelow is arrested in a prostitution sting. The race for Joan Menard's senate seat gets ugly. Flanagan involves himself in the affairs of the Zoning Board.
 
 
The RDA votes to retain the services of the Fall River Office of Economic Development. State Senate candidate Mike Coogan gets "Hummeled". Primary Day results in ZERO surprises.
 
 
A View From Battleship Cove focuses on asking a question to the candidates. Steve Torres get angry "on air".
 
 
Rumors circulate that King Philip Lunch will remain open. Pro-casino forces say it's all about the jobs, I say that just isn't true. A look to Bethlehem brings MORE casino concerns not less.
 
 
Fall River announces plans to auction off 5 former schools in Feb of 2011. TJX announces AJ Wright closure. City seems ready to revisit Biopark proposal. Is the casino dead?
 
 
 

Taking the Plunge

This Saturday several supporters of Forever Paws Animal Shelter will join City Councilor Pat Casey and Mayor Will Flanagan for a polar bear plunge in the frigid waters of Mount Hope Bay. The event put together by Casey will be held in her Sandy Beach neighborhood.
 
Now, I think it's a great thing that people want to support a local animal shelter. Personally I don't like jumping into cold water in the dead of Summer so these folks deserve a big hand for doing so in the frosty grip of Winter. Shelters deserve our support and they often provide amazing service to our four-legged friends on very tight budgets. I also understand that Pat has been a big advocate of Forever Paws and this is one of the things that I have admired about Councilor Casey, she is a community activist at heart.
 
The problem is she IS a City Councilor. To have her put together an event that favors one shelter and to include the Mayor and other city officials seems wrong. It seems almost like a city endorsement of one shelter over another. I've been to both shelters and I think both do good work. If Pat wanted to support Forever Paws she should have participated in an event that somebody else put together but since she is the one who put it together I think it should have been to the benefit of both of the city's shelters.
 
Again both shelters do good work and if you're able deserve your support. A quick check shows that you can donate to either shelter from their website.
 
 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who Killed the Casino?

It's a sentiment that I've heard on the radio and read in the paper. Ten taxpayers have decided the fate of the entire city! How dare THEY decide what is right for the rest of us! Don't they know how many people needs JOBS? Don't they know how many are struggling to survive and stay in their homes? How dare they kill Fall River's last chance at jobs in this city!

Like I said, it's a sentiment that I've heard on the radio and read in the paper and it's plain bullshit.

The ten taxpayers did not kill the casino. Yes their lawsuit halted the land sale to the Wampanoags but really the only direct impact that has had is to deny the Redevelopment Authority of revenue it gets from land sales. For the RDA this is a real issue because they are in desperate need of the money but for the casino it's just one small little hurdle.

Now don't get me wrong I think what these 10 taxpayers have done is fantastic. I think they're heroes. I have major issues with taking land that only was transferred to the city and to the RDA with the stipulation that is not be used for a casino and then ignoring that and working around it. The argument is the stipulation would have been in place but the reality is if the land were to become sovereign land the stipulation wouldn't matter.

However, halting the land sale didn't kill the casino. Even if the sale of the land happened tomorrow you couldn't build on it. Casino gaming isn't legal in Massachusetts. That has to go back before the legislature and then back before the governor. And while I am hearing from some that it will come back before the legislature it doesn't mean it will pass. Even if it does pass a panel will have to select which proposals get a license. There is no guarantees at all that Fall River would be one of the ones selected.

Again the 10 taxpayers didn't kill the casino because it's not legal in Massachusetts and even if it were there is no guarantee Fall River would be one of the selected locations.

Of course the tribe also wanted to put the land into trust which would make it sovereign land. While this would certainly eliminate the problem of the it not being legal or the risk of not being selected Sovereign status is no guarantee either. The tribe has no direct connection to the land and such claims are said to get a low priority.

The 10 taxpayers didn't kill the casino because sovereign status was never a given and without the tribe can't build because it's not legal in Massachusetts and there is no guarantee that Fall River would be one of the selected locations.

Lastly, even if the land sale had gone through with all the other obstacles in the way it would be years, if ever, before a casino was built and operational. It would be years before they ever broke ground.

The 10 taxpayers didn't kill the casino, they simply added one more hurdle to the process. Maybe it will be the straw that broke that camel's back but overall it's a small hurdle compared to what the casino already faced. What the 10 taxpayers have done is given us an opportunity to take a breath and reassess. With Meditech building just over the Freetown line locating the Biopark in the north end makes more sense than ever. It is a project that can break ground almost immediately and one the whole region sees the benefits of. UMD's Chancellor McCormack still believes that the 300 acre site is the best location for the biopark. As for the casino, it's not dead. Mayor Flanagan is already talking to the Wampanoag's about alternate locations and considering that it's not yet legal we have time to do it right.

Is the Casino Dead?

With the city's appeal denied by Appeals Court Justice Kafker is Mayor Flanagan really ready to abandon his plans for a resort casino and work to reestablish a biopark in the north end of the city?

It would seem so. Flanagan has stated that he is not out of options but indicated the city would take no further legal action. He has also indicated that he would be talking to the state officials and Chancellor Jean McCormack.

Is a casino really dead?

Maybe not.

I think if someone threw the Mayor a lifeline he would grab it. At this point he would need some indication that a casino bill would be a high priority in this next legislative session. The lifeline could also come in the form of removing the land restriction on the 300 acre site, which would make the land sale legal.

Of course neither of these things would make a casino in Fall River a reality. There are other obstacles.

It seems that the Mayor is ready to at least talk about bringing the biopark back to the site and Chancellor McCormack has stated that this is the ideal site. She has also made it clear that if the University commits its resources it will only be with a binding agreement in place.

Is a casino dead?

Maybe not.

It turns out the Mayor has been discussing other possible locations in the city with the Wampanoags. If that's the case well then maybe we really could have both. It might even lead to a casino proposal I could support.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Too Dark to See?

An elderly man was hit while trying to cross South Main Street near
the Mitchell Apartment building. Normally this wouldn't be something
that I would blog about but there was something about the story that
got my attention. The Herald News reported that the driver slowed when
the elderly man's daughter was crossing but didn't see him step out
from between two parked vehicles.

The comment section seems filled with back and forth comments on
whether the driver should have used more care of the pedestrian.

Just last night I found myself driving on Bay Street near Gold Medal
Bakery and as I was driving someone crossed from the side of the road
where the bakery is on over to Sunset Hill.

I never saw them.

The only thing I saw was a darkness that broke up the beam from the
headlights. Now the person crossing didn't jump out in front of me.
They were a safe distance in front and I had plenty of time to slow
down. But as I got closer I could see that there was another person
holding a child between two vehicles waiting to cross. What if they
had decided to go? What if they had assumed I saw them and was going
to stop?

Now things are a bit different between Sunset Hill and Mitchell
Apartments. There is no crosswalk with a light to stop traffic. I
don't think there is any crosswalk at all.

While the commentors online focused on the driver, the pedestrian, the
crosswalk, the vehicles headlights, I was caught by this:

"Police said the street was not very brightly lit…"

Now personally I have driven that stretch of Bay Street enough to
think that they should have no parking on both sides of the road and
create parking spaces within the grounds of Sunset Hill. But I have
also driven it enough to know that when it is really dark out there is
not enough illumination from the street lights. Now this accident
takes place and the police say the street wasn't very brightly lit.

It seems to me we should make sure that areas that are high traffic
and have crosswalks should be well lit.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Don’t shop at TJ Maxx this Christmas

TJX the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods and AJ Wright has announced that they are closing all AJ Wright stores in 60 days. They will also be closing two warehouses one here in Fall River and the other in Indiana. The closings will put over 1,400 Massachusetts employees out of work, about 800 of them in the Fall River area alone.

Companies are in the business of making money. That's the goal and the priority. I get that, and if AJ Wright was losing money I could understand this decision. However AJ Wright is estimated to have made 10 million dollars in after tax profit for the year. So this decision isn't about making profit, it's about making MORE profit. I get that companies are not obligated to have a moral conscience but something seems terribly wrong with closing a profitable division and putting over 4,000 people out of work because you want to make MORE money.

In this economy companies should take pride in putting people back to work not laying them off so the rich can get richer.

In Fall River the AJ Wright Warehouse may be closing but the AJ Wright store will be renovated and converted to either a TJ Maxx, Marshalls or HomeGoods store but really let me give TJX some advice..just close the store. After all you're putting 800 people out of work, so they can't shop there. Fall River already has over 5,000 citizens looking for work so they're not going to be shopping there either. No, you'd be better off closing it now. Think of your investors!

But if you decide to go ahead and open your store anyway I won't be shopping there. You see as a corporation you have the right to decide what to do with your assets. You can open locations and close them however you see fit and for whatever reason you see fit. You can even close a profitable division simply to make MORE money. But I get to decide where I spend my money and I'm not giving it to a company that puts people out of work simply for greed.

I would urge anyone reading this to considering not giving your business to TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, or AJ Wright.  

Thursday, December 09, 2010

School Auction

Five former schools will be auctioned tentatively this February. The schools represent 1/3 of the total of vacant schools the city currently has.
 
It's understandable why the city would want to move forward on disposing of the Belisle, Coughlin, Lincoln, Brayton Avenue, and old Henry Lord schools. The sale of any of the buildings would generate some much needed revenue for the city not only from the purchase but also from real estate tax. Selling the buildings would also save the city money as Fall River would no longer have to pay to maintain and secure the buildings and grounds. The city would also not have pay for utilities such as heat and electricity. Besides if the city has no clear use for the buildings it's better to see them developed in some way shape or form than to sit and deteriorate further.
 
The problem is there was a whole lot of talk about getting community input to decide the fate of these buildings. What ever happened with that? I haven't heard much about what the input amounted to, or how it will be used by city officials. After all these buildings pretty much served as a prominent cornerstone for the neighborhoods they once served. Making sure that their future development fits in with the character of the neighborhoods and at the same time makes sense for the future of the city should be the top priority. So I'm dismayed to read in the Herald News article that Attorney Torres saying that properties would be sold to the highest qualifying bidder.
 
Selling these properties to the highest bidder may seem like the wisest move, especially considering the tough financial situation Fall River finds itself in, but the reality is it is much more important to award these properties to the bidders who have the best long-term proposal. The best proposal should be one that fits the character of the neighborhood and makes sense for the future of the city. It may be that in one instance it is more desirable to tear down the existing building to develop a new building. If that is consistent with the character of the neighborhood, the needs of the city, and represents the best investment in the property (which should take into consideration future taxes generated, and potential job creation) then this is the offer that should be accepted; even if that means turning down one that offers more cash initially but in the long-term will do little to benefit the city.
 
Attorney Torres mentions that the Lincoln School might be an ideal site for owner occupied condominiums and I would agree. However I think it might also be worth discussing it as a possible site for the Antioch School. I know they have expressed interest in the Highland School, but so has the Children's Museum and so has Truesdale Clinic. Why not see if the school, which is currently closer to the Lincoln might not have some interest in the that site? Torres also discusses the Belisle and mentioned that with 5 acres of land  there could be " a half-dozen house lots" placed there. Is he implying tearing down the school and developing 6 house lots? In Fall River 5 acres equals about 20 house lots! Do we really want to see a realistically dozen houses crammed into that space? If so where will those kids go to school? The Viveiros School is already at maximum capacity. Perhaps the Belisle shouldn't be sold. Originally the master school plan called for the school to be kept and expanded in capacity at some point in the future. Why, if the original plan called for expanding it and with the nearest school already at capacity are we looking to sell it?
 
Again, we should be looking and actively working for proposals that best suit our long term needs. Selling Belisle to developers for house lots may bring put cash in our pockets now, and heck maybe even return some nice real estate tax but that has to be factored against the impact on the neighborhood and the cost of services that we will have to provide. And in the case of Belisle I think we really need to answer the question are we sure we're not going to need it and if so how do we replace it? Condos may be a perfect fit for Lincoln, but Antioch may better proposal on the grounds that it would free up the Highland and possibly allow us to develop two beneficial proposals instead of hoping for a suitable develops for the Lincoln.
 
Back in 2006 we bid out the former police station stressing that we were going to award it to the best proposal. Through a comic series of missteps we concluded we should have appraised the building first to determine value and went and decided to re-auction the building. Now with an established "value" the minimum bid was much higher than the previous winning bid. Of course the second time around the city accepted a much higher bid but look at what has happened to the property. Any additional profit made has long ago been spent. Had we gone with the original bid, even at a much lower value today that property would house a new office complex and would be generating revenue for the city in the way of higher real estate taxes. 
 
We need to make sure we get this right and that we auction of these properties in a way that is going to benefit the city not just today but years from now. We need to get this right because after these 5 schools we have 10 more to go.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Look to Bethlehem

Anytime someone suggests that a casino in Fall River could have more negative effects than positive ones it seems the answer is to look to Bethlehem. Mention that a casino could bring more crime, or more social issues and the answer is look to Bethlehem.

Oh this isn't some sort of indicator to have some religious faith, no instead the example that I've heard various city councilors and local radio hosts and a few pro-casino folks cite is Bethlehem Pennsylvania.

Now every time I've heard this I've ignored it. Even if things WERE working out fantastic with a new casino in Bethlehem that was simply ONE example versus multiple studies and other cities where casinos have had negative impacts. However, now with it clear that the Mayor is unwilling to let this drop or to even slow down and take a more cautious approach I figured it was time to look into this for myself.

What I found was that while the casino has 5,000 slots it employs 750-800 full time workers with benefits. In fact the article that I found to be the most objective stated that no casino in Pennsylvania employs more than 1,200. Now slots isn't the all mighty indicator on employment but it does suggest a certain size casino. By comparison, the proposed Fall River casino is to have 2,500 slots. Does this indicate 3,000-5,000 jobs that been touted so much by the administration or closer to 325-400 full time jobs that a comparison with Pennsylvania would indicate?

So looking to Bethlehem what I get is doubt about the number of jobs a Fall River casino will bring.

Still Bethlehem's mayor is pleased that the anticipated drawbacks of a casino haven't happened. He's quick to point out that crime hasn't gone up. (In fact as of last Spring it had gone down.) Traffic hasn't gotten worse and the character of the city hasn't changed. This all sounds great, but if you read into it a bit more you start to wonder. Crime hasn't increased and the mayor believes this is because more people are working but also before the casino was built there was a ramp up of the police force. (perhaps expecting the worst?) Traffic hasn't gotten worse but (as we'll touch on later) the casino hasn't been the economic powerhouse it was thought to be and a proposed hotel hadn't been built.

So looking to Bethlehem what I get is the character hasn't changed but the casino has not been the overwhelming success it was thought to be. They still don't have a hotel, most patrons are daytrippers (or local). What if Fall River's casino doesn't meet expectations? Will we be so lucky crime-wise? We're already the 4th most dangerous city in Massachusetts!

The Mayor says he wants Bethlehem to be the place where people say they did casinos right and the article ticks of a short list of what went into that approach:
1. Find the right site
2. Find the right operator
3. Get the zoning right
4. Work with your neighbors
5. Figure out your infrastructure needs in advance

Here in Fall River:
1. No other site has been seriously considered
2. No other operator has been courted
3. No discussion has taken place on what zoning changes may be appropriate
4. Surrounding communities have not been taken into consideration or even part of the discussion
5. No discussion of the impact on infrastructure has taken place.

Now, while Bethlehem is more than breaking even the article states they're not making any serious money. The article also says that due to economy that hotel construction was put on hold. (No hotel?? Maybe you can reserve a manger...after all it IS Bethlehem!)

So I look to Bethlehem and see that actual revenue may be a lot less than what we're thinking. It also isn't too hard to think that if that's the case the proposal for Fall River could be seriously scaled back.

Now what's interesting about the casino in Bethlehem is that it's built on the site of a former steel mill. This was something the city pushed for because it would jump start some revitalization of an existing site that needed to be cleaned up. The development was also considerate of the city's history and the legacy of the site itself. I think this one of the reasons why the casino hasn't changed the character of the city because it was designed to blend and fit it. Now when various suitors talked about building a casino there was a lot of interest in building it in the outskirts of the city. This was something Bethlehem expressed no interest in what-so-ever. Bethlehem specifically wanted the development to revitalize an existing piece to the city and felt that a casino on the outskirts of town would simply harm the city's downtown.

So when I look to Bethlehem I see a city that worked to avoid a proposal like the one our Mayor is so aggressively pushing. I see a city that used casino development as a way to spur revitalization, not just economic but urban revitalization. I also see a development that very aware of not hurting the existing business environment. (In fact, this reminds me a lot of New Bedford's NStar proposal which I've always thought made more sense than what was being pushed here...)

Despite the intent, the data so far indicates that casino patrons eat at the casino and shop at the casino and very little of that business seems to trickle down to the rest of the community, again despite the original efforts to encourage it to.

To combat the worry about an increase in crime and negative effects on the city, Bethlehem hired additional officers ramping up before the casino opened. They also changed zoning so that no adult entertainment, pawn shops, and checking cashing establishments could set up near the casino.

Again, has any discussion about zoning in Fall River? Has there been any effort to ramp up our police staff? Yes we've hired back officers but I'm not sure we're even back to full staffing levels.

Bethlehem is also sharing a portion of its hosting fees with other nearby communities with the idea that they too would also share in any negative effects.

Fall River hasn't made, nor I doubt will make any such suggestion to do the same.

While Bethlehem is yet to realize any of the tourism dollars they hoped for they may already be seeing signs of social issues. Compulsive gambling issues seem to be on the rise in Pennsylvania. Calls to a statewide hot-line have doubled since the first casino opened in PA just 4 years ago. Also the age old argument that a casino in Massachusetts will simply rake in the money destined for Connecticut doesn't hold water in Pennsylvania's experience. What their experience suggests is that if the casino is just a mile away folks with addictive tendencies will go more often and lose more money than if they had to travel 100 miles. The social issues this causes become ours as a community to deal with.

So when I look to Bethlehem, the shining example of how casinos can work I see that it's not quite the bright light advocates want to paint it out to be.

The source I relied on most heavily for this post is an article from CommonWealth Magazine. It is a pretty balanced look and is well worth a read. You can find it here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

When 10 taxpayers formed a group to stop the land sale for a proposed casino I had a conversation with a friend and predicted that we would soon hear voices saying that these folks were stopping progress and keeping jobs from coming to Fall River. And sure enough I've heard, read, and had conversations where that very viewpoint has been expressed. I further said sooner or later someone would suggest suing the ten taxpayers because they were stopping job development. Sure enough I've seen those comments pop up too!

This whole issue has been framed as being about jobs. You're either for the casino or against jobs. Mayor Flanagan looks at the opposition as a "war on jobs" Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.

How do you tell someone who is out of work and at risk of losing their home that jobs aren't important? How do you tell someone who can't put food on the table that we need to think "long-term"?

What's the old saying "desperate times call for desperate measures"? Well times are tough and people want jobs now. Unlike some I have no doubts that if this were brought to the ballot as either a binding or non-binding referendum it would pass.

You can almost hear the rally: "what do we want? JOBS!!! When do we want them? NOW!!!!

But for some reason all these people who are crying for a casino don't seem to understand that it's NOT going to bring jobs now. It's not going to bring jobs for YEARS! All the arguments that a biopark won't bring jobs for years seems silly when the alternative won't bring anything immediately either, if at all. Even if the city is able to somehow have the injunction against the land sale overturned, even if the injunction never took place, the land sale does not create jobs because you can't build a casino there!

Everyone in favor acts as though legalized gambling is a given, well it's not!

Already you have Governor Patrick publicly stating that a gaming bill is no longer a priority. You also have Speaker DeLeo saying the same thing. Even if they change course and suddenly but this back on the front burner there is no guarantee this is going to pass. It just FAILED to pass because nobody could come up with a compromise! Oh, of course we have the brilliant Plan B, where the Wampanoag's will be able to put the land into trust and no longer have to deal with whether or not gaming is legal is Massachusetts because this will be Indian land. Well that isn't a given either. The tribe's tie to the land seems to be nonexistent and it's been said that other applications are of a higher priority. Of course let's not forget that if for some reason the tribe WAS able to go this route they don't have to worry about gaming being legal, or the environmental protections on the land, or labor laws, or any other protections we take for granted that wouldn't apply to Indian land. Oh yes, our crack legal minds will make sure to carve out the best possible deal for Fall River to make sure our interests are protected. Bullshit. This administration is so desperate to see this happen that they'd give away your first born if that is what the tribe demanded. I have zero faith that our leadership will protect our interests and you should too. Of course brilliantly as a casino faces all of these obstacles we'll spend thousands of dollars fighting an injunction because if we win we can then be stopped by the fact that it's not legal, if it were Fall River might not be picked, that there are no guarantees that the land will ever be put into Indian trust. Flanagan is spending money we don't have to win a battle, and not the war!

So meanwhile, injunction or no injunction we sit and wait. We wait to see if gaming gets legalized. We wait to see if the land becomes Sovereign land. Meanwhile weeds are growing on 300 acres of land and no jobs are being created. Even IF gaming is legalized in the state we still have no guarantee that Fall River would be one of the selected sites. So we wait and wait some more. If the land sale does go through well the RDA can help UMass Dartmouth secure a parcel for the Bio-facility (it's not longer a park) and they can PAY Ken Fiola. Well that's good it's great to know that if we sell off some of this land we can at least RETAIN a job. It would be awful to see Kenny looking for work.

In the meantime as the days, weeks, months, YEARS trickle by, this will all be time that the biopark, because it was shovel ready, could have been built and developed and marketed and maybe start attracting some job opportunities here. Yes, a lot of those jobs would be higher education jobs but there would also be tons of jobs that wouldn't require a college degree. And it's not just jobs.

Oh there's the cry again: Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

Jobs are important but so is development. You can put all sorts to people back to work in Fall River but if the city is going to prosper we need more revenue and that requires development! Good example, Meditech now plans to build a huge facility in Freetown, job-wise whether it's here or there probably doesn't make a huge difference. However, Freetown is going to get a real estate tax for that new development. If the Biopark had never been disrupted maybe Meditech would have built here in Fall River and we would be getting all that tax revenue.

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

Have a conversation with anyone who is in favor of a casino and tell them you're not and they say don't you want jobs? Don't you know we need jobs? But hold on, it's not going to bring jobs today, or tomorrow. In fact it could be costing us jobs because we've totally derailed a project that we've worked for a decade to bring here for one that we can't guarantee will ever see the light of day because it faces ½ dozen hurdles. It's not as simple as a casino = jobs and no casino means you're against. How much time have we spent discussing the negative issues? What will this do to existing business? What will this do the city's crime rate? What social issues will this bring to the city? I'm told that one city councilor said that people are adults and responsible for their own choices. THAT just isn't true. We as a society shoulder a large burden for the choices adults make and then take no responsibility for. This is particularly true in communities like Fall River!

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

That's all I hear! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

Whether you're for this or not, do yourself a favor, grab one of our elected officials and ask them how many people will be put back to work in the next 6 months because of the casino? If you don't include LAWYERS, I'm pretty sure the answer is ZERO. Seriously go ask one of our city councilors, go ask Flanagan, or Fiola, or any member of the RDA. How many people will be put back to work in the next year? 18 months? 24 months? And if they give you an answer question it! If they tell you ground will be broken by the summer ask how? Ask how are we getting passed the legalization. How do we know when it MIGHT become sovereign land? They don't know! They can't tell you! And if you press every answer and just don't nod dumbly and walk away they're going to get mad at you asking. They're going to start throwing out "facts" that they can't back up and start making excuses. They'll blame these 10 taxpayers when the legislature failed to put a bill in front of the Governor that he would sign. They'll say the majority wants this, even though they have no facts to back that up. They'll tell you that a biopark wouldn't have put anybody to work either, when the fact is some construction could already be taking place and Fall River could possibly have had Meditech as one of the parks first tenants. Then they'll tell you we need the jobs, because they have no answers just buzzwords and rhetoric.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

King Philip Lunch to Stay Open?

I imagine the last few weeks have been very busy at King Philip Lunch. After the Herald ran a story at the end of last month saying that the Fall River staple would be closing after 61 years at the end of THIS month, I'm sure lots of folks have made the pilgrimage (fitting for Thanksgiving) to get that last dog or wimpy burger. I'm also sure that that the folks behind the counter have heard the same question over and over as they slap on the mustard and sauce: "Is Pete going to sell?"
 
I myself have made at least 4 trips in the last few weeks making sure to get a taste of Coney dogs, wimpy burgers and hot cheese sandwiches while I still can and each time I've visited I've asked some version of that very question. At first I was told that nope Pete was just going to lock the door. He didn't want to go through the hassle of a sale. Then I was told he was considering it. The third visit was even more encouraging there had been lots of interest and it seemed certain that someone would buy it. The last visit was the most encouraging of all, there has been lots of interest but one person has been very persistent and it seems that it is very likely that when Pete locks the door on his last day a new owner will unlock it the following morning. IF this is all true it's great news because that end of the city just wouldn't be the same with out a hot dog joint of its own.
 
So, if King Philip Lunch is sold, here's some advice for the new owners....
 
DON'T MONKEY AROUND WITH ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
Pete has been there for 61 years, he knows what he's doing and what works! Don't switch hot dogs or try to spice up the sauce (YOU ARE GETTING THE SAUCE RECIPE RIGHT???). Don't add a ton of new items to the menu. If I want a bigger selection I'll go to McGoverns. Don't try to make it look new and trendy. We LIKE it original, vintage and nostalgic.
 
Sure a little change might be OK. Feel free to touch up the paint and perhaps you can try out a new item or two but that's it!
 
And let Pete know the doors always open. Let him  pop in, serve a few if he wants, have one or two on the house. Let him talk about old times and chat away with old friends. After all he and Helen have seemed like extended family to a lot of people for a very long time.
 
Here's hoping that a sale does go through and the best of luck to some potential new owners.

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Question for the Candidate - The Wrap Up

A few weeks ago I attempted to reach out to a dozen candidates for various office with a simple question of why they were the best candidate for the people of Fall River.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the four candidates for Governor never acknowledged me. I did think Dr Stein might take any opportunity to get her message out there, or perhaps Mr. Cahill, but I didn't hear from either of them. I certainly didn't expect the Governor or Mr. Baker to respond especially considering how 'last minute' my request was. But it would have been nice.

I had much more success with the local races. Both Representative Mike Rodrigues and his opponent Derek Maksy took the time to respond. Oddly I heard from every candidate for state representative with the exception of David Rose. While Mr. Jacome (8th Bristol) and Representative Aguiar (7th Bristol) both responded to my emails, neither submitted a response to the question, considering that their opponents did, this was a bit disappointing. It's amusing that one candidate for the 6th Bristol, (Representative David Sullivan), one candidate for the 7th Bristol (CJ Ferry) and one for the 8th Bristol (Paul Schmid) submitted a response but their opponents didn't. It's like I batted .500 with each district!

And what about the responses? Well honestly I don't think any of the candidates who chose to respond really nailed it. What I wanted to see were responses that spoke specifically about issues affecting Fall River and ideas that the candidates had to address them. I wanted to see examples of how their leadership would be used to benefit our city. When candidates did touch upon these things it was usually with too much generality and not enough specifics. I was amused that some of the responses were crafted like a good debate answer, where the candidate manages to say what he or she wants no matter the question.

Still I give much credit, and many thanks to the candidates that took the time to respond, especially considering the late notice. I know I'm not considered a media outlet but that's part of what makes contacting these folks so interesting! Will they respond? My take on this is if they won't respond to me, chances are they won't respond to you either. Again out of all the local candidates I reached out to, only one didn't respond back.

Will any of this help you decide on who to vote for tomorrow? Chances are by now you've made up your mind. However if you're still on the fence maybe one of these responses will help you make your decision, or just that a particular candidate took the time to respond will help you make your decision. If that's the case then I'm glad this blog could be of service.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Question for the Candidate – David Sullivan

Dave Sullivan is the State Representative for the 6th Bristol District, a position he has held since 1997. This year Dave is facing off against a Republican also named Dave in the general election. We asked Representative Sullivan what was it about his platform, leadership style, and goals that best represent the needs and interests of the people of Fall River. Below are excerpts from his response, with my commentary. The entire unedited response can be read here.

I believe that my education and experience combined have helped me to be an effective legislator. I possess both a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters degree, and went on to work in the field of social work for many years before becoming a state legislator.

The thing that Dave's detractors love to say is that he is not an effective legislator. That love to cite that he has failed to get any appointments on any of the big committees and that he often seems on the outside looking in, even within our local delegation. Now, personally I like that Dave isn't afraid to stand by himself. At the same time I think Dave has been proven he can work with other legislatures far more effectively than he has gotten credit for.  

I have developed a reputation for being persistent with regard to issues that are important to my constituents, an approach that has led some to dub me "a pitbull." I have taken on big fights against corporate giants like Hess LNG, and also have taken on fights that others might have ignored, defending the elderly, the mentally ill, and just this session preventing much-needed services at Corrigan Mental Health from being shut down.

Dave has been very active in the fight against LNG. He has pushed hard on this even when it angered other members of the local delegation. Dave has also worked hard to protect social services. I have always admired the stance he took, almost a decade ago, as the only member of the local delegation to not be in favor of tearing down Watuppa Heights. It was a decision not popular with everyone but there were citizens who disagreed with tearing down the project and they deserved representation too.

My approach is always to see the big picture, passing Economic Development legislation this session that will help the private sector create jobs while always remembering that there are individuals in need of a hand up as we all have been at some point in our lives.

I wish Dave had spoke about what he wants to push in the next session to benefit the city, bring jobs, create tourism, etc.

 I ask my constituents to keep in mind that past performance is indicative of future success and I am proud of my track record and will continue to work hard on economic development, public safety and other initiatives if the voters are kind enough to give me their vote on November 2nd.

When I think of Dave's past performance I see someone who is easily accessible and has been the champion of the little guy. Yes, I suppose Dave could be more influential but he has managed to work effectively with his peers while still being independent and standing up for what he believes despite what political wisdom may say. I thank Representative Sullivan for taking the time to respond and wish him the best in the upcoming election. His entire response can be read here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Question for the Candidate – CJ Ferry

CJ Ferry is the Republican candidate for the 7th Bristol District House seat. CJ has run for various positions in the past including running for this seat during the last election. Republicans have an awfully tough time winning local races in Fall River; CJ is hoping that this year reverses that trend. We're asking Mr. Ferry  what is it about his platform, leadership style and goals that best represent the needs and interests of the people of Fall River? Below are excerpts from his response, with my commentary. The entire unedited response can be read here.

I feel that the people of Fall River should elect me to the position of State Representative of the Seventh Bristol District because I not only listen to the needs of the people, but any votes I take are not only looked at from the perspective of what will this do now, but what will the trickle down do to other facets of government, the budget and the people.

 

It does seem that elected officials always vote based on what works today without thinking about the future impact. Of course, that is probably because elected officials worry about getting reelected now, and not 20 years in the future. If CJ is elected let's see how easy it is for him to live by this statement.

 

An example of that is local aid, my opponent has twice voted to cut local aid and claims that the vote helped balance the budget, but the budget isn't balanced when you need to borrow money to make ends meet.  Further, my opponent failed to look at the trickledown economics which we residents of Fall River are feeling; a higher tax rate, higher fees, fewer services and more work with fewer people.

 

This is hitting basic conservative themes of fiscal responsibility. As much as this resonates I would need to know why his opponent voted the way he did, it's hardly ever an easy black and white situation.

 

My opponent has claimed to be all about jobs, yet his votes have been 50% of the time against business and jobs and he has even flip flopped on the casino issue.  I have and still work with businesses great and small and I try to tout the benefits of bringing businesses like wind turbine manufacture and solar panel manufacture to Fall River.

 

This was an interesting exchange on their recent radio debate. Mr. Ferry's opponent charged that this was information from a special interest group, but it is based on his voting record. It seems the 50% maybe a bit inflated, but it would be interesting to read the source material on this.

 

In State government we need a cooperative leadership style and one this of the people and for the people – NOT one that is of the individual to support the individual.  My opponent has voted over 97% of the time with the House leadership…

 

97% seems unreasonably high. I understand that he's a Democrat. I understand the need to build support. However there is no way 97% of the time these votes work for Fall River.

 

Lastly, my opponent recently stated that he hold "Democratic values", it is not Democratic values we are elected for; it is the needs of the State and the needs of the people.

 

Sure, except the area is mostly Democratic and his opponent is doing a nice job of reminding them which candidate has a "D" next to his name.

 

When you give me a choice of "Police Officers or Social Workers" as my opponent gave his Democratic opponent, I will always choose a cop.  Not that Social Workers aren't important but public safety is as well and we need to prioritize our budget and our needs.

 

Right now, in this economy, with the condition the city is in, I have to agree. However I think someone could argue that more social workers might mean less need for more cops in the future.

 

My first reaction after reading CJ's response was that this was one of the stronger responses I had gotten. Now, I think he did a good job of talking about what he feels his opponent failed to do but really didn't talk much about what he would do and focus on in office. Yes, we need representation that can reach across the aisle, particularly if your NOT a Democrat. Yes, we have hard working people and small buissness is the backbone of job growth. Yes we need elected leadership that looks at the big picture and not just the immediate impact of a vote. But what exactly are you going to work toward to bring jobs here, to protect Fall River long term and to invite the investment of small buisness in Fall River?
 
I want to thank CJ Ferry for taking the time to respond and wish him the best of luck in the upcoming election. Mr. Ferry is running a very spirited campaign and his entire statement can be read here

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Question for the Candidate – Paul Schmid

Paul Schmid is the Democratic candidate for the Eight Bristol District. He is currently a selectman for the town of Westport. After winning the Democratic primary Mr. Schmid finds himself facing off against an independent candidate in the general election. There is no Republican challenger. We're asking Mr. Schmid what is it about his platform, leadership style and goals that best represent the needs and interests of the people of Fall River? Below are excerpts from his response, with my commentary. The entire unedited response can be read here.

I am focused on jobs for greater Fall River. I support a casino. It's not a silver bullet, but it can be part of the tool box. The license should encourage the casino to draw patrons to the area, to benefit local restaurants, agriculture and attractions.

I'd love to talk at length with Mr. Schmid on this point alone. As readers here know, I am no fan of the casino, however I've long felt if you have to have one it should be designed in a way that would help bring business to the rest of the city. It seems Mr. Schmid is talking along the same lines here. Certainly it's refreshing to have someone say it's not a silver bullet but only part of the solution.

 I support the biopark. I support the commuter rail and taking down Rt 79. The proposed train center in its place will reconnect Fall River with its waterfront. We need to develope our waterfront into mixed uses: condominiums, restaurants, marinas, cruise ship docking and commercial activities including those to support the off shore wind and current turbines that are coming.

A lot of this isn't particularly new and has been mentioned by various elected officials over the years, still it's good to know Mr. Schmid would support and work towards. The plug for green energy is also welcome.
We should market ourselves to the millions who drive through on 195 but do not stop. Mystic Village gets 300,000 visitors a year, the USS Massachusetts has 100,000. We can do better. We should allow fishing on Watuppa Pond a few times a year. In conjunction with camping at the bioreserve, and under the auspices of Bassmasters, this could position us as a sportsman's capitol. This idea comes from my friend Dave Proulx.
Here is another statement that I wish Mr. Schmid had expanded upon. How do we market ourselves? Still I think he's right. Fall River used to have outlets now they're in Wrenthem and partly because we failed to market ourselves. Fishing and camping on the Watuppa is an idea worth exploring. I like that Paul not only presents it here but acknowledges that the idea is from a friend.

I am VERY optimistic about our future. We have many assets. Millions live within a few hours by car. A deep water port. A historic district second to none. A hard working labor force. Heavens, let's get going.

Mr. Schmid is running in perhaps the most interesting of the local races. I wish him the best of luck and thank him for taking the time to respond. Mr. Schmid's entire response can be read here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Question for the Candidate - Michael Rodrigues

It's a little tough not to think of Mike as an incumbent simply because he has been a State Representative for over a decade. However instead of running for re-election for his Representative seat, he's running for the Senate position that Joan Menard is vacating. We heard from his opponent in the first installment of this series. Of course, we're asking the same question. What is it about his platform, leadership style, and goals that best represent the needs and interests of the people of Fall River? Below are excerpts from his response, with my commentary. The entire unedited response can be read here.

As a State Representative in the city, I’ve had the privilege and honor of representing a third
of Fall River for fourteen years. During this time I have worked with many constituents on a variety of issues and we shared in many successes. I have done my best to make Fall River a better place to live, work and raise a family, and I believe my successes speak for themselves.

Experience is the big theme of Mike's campaign, and the big thing that sets him apart from Derek Maksy. Voters have to decide if they want someone new (something we voters are always crying for...) or if we want someone who is experienced with the issues of the region and with the workings of Beacon Hill.

Over the years I’ve led the transformation of the Kerr Mills Site from a pile of rubble to a twenty first century economic engine which now employs over four hundred people in the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center and at Meditech. I was also able to help transform Dave’s Beach boat ramp from a haven of illegal drug and sexual activity to a clean and safe public access to South Watuppa Pond. With the formation of the Bioreserve, I’ve led the effort to protect Fall River’s most precious natural resource; our drinking water supply. With the help of Senator Joan Menard and Representative David Sullivan we have halted construction of an ill conceived plan to bring an LNG terminal to Weavers Cove. Finally, we built eight new technologically modern schools in Fall River. It was with the help of the people of Fall River that I was successful in accomplishing these victories and many more.

It's tough to figure out where to edit his comments and where to add my own. Again Mike is hitting hard on the theme of experience and here he's reminding us on some of things he has helped achieve. As much as I wanted to excerpt the above it was tough to figure what not to leave in. It's great to see a list of things he's done it begs the question 'what have you failed to achieve?' and it really doesn't speak to what you want to accomplish in the senate. However it's tough not to acknowledge the importance of protecting the water supply, or the role the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center seems poised to play in Fall River's future.

A few weeks ago I drafted the South Coast Jobs Creation plan to help create a positive climate for businesses to grow, expand and provide these jobs. With Representative Patricia Haddad’s help and co-sponsorship, I plan to introduce this piece of legislation immediately upon being elected.

Elect me and look what I'll do! I've heard people comment if he has this great plan why not put it out there now. Well honestly if the legislature were still in session he probably would! I mean why not? It would probably be an even MORE effective campaign bit. Again Mike is sticking with a common theme, experience.

This is why I believe I am the only candidate with the legislative experience, proven track record and dedication to hit the ground running in January and make a positive impact not only in Fall River, but in the entire South Coast.

Um...still hitting home on that same theme. Representative Rodrigues entire response can be read here. When I've reached out to candidates in the past it is usually the underdog who takes the time to respond and the more established candidates tend to ignore my requests, so I greatly appreciate Mike Rodrigues' willingness to respond. That said, I'm a little disappointed in his response. I was really hoping that THIS candidate would tell me more about what he wanted to achieve, especially versus what he has already done. I think part of the disappointment stems from the primary campaign. I was caught up in the appeal of getting new people into office and not someone who has been up in Boston for over a decade, BUT I found it tough to take Mike's primary opponents seriously, mostly because Mike consistently spoke more knowledgeably and had by far the best platform on his website. I guess I was hoping to see just a little bit more of that here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A is for Arrogant

Attorney Steve Torres, Fall River's full time corporation counsel has been moonlighting but he doesn't want you to know it.

The problem is the Standard Times ran a story yesterday morning that mentions that the town of Wareham is not happy with delays in receiving a computer audit report from Attorney Torres who is handling the matter as a special counsel. That story received mention yesterday afternoon on WSAR's The Alex Stylos Show and that's where the fireworks began.

Stylos told his audience that he came across the story in the Standard Times and after a little footwork confirmed that the Torres mentioned in the article is our very own corporation counsel.  Stylos and his co-host for the afternoon, former City Councilor Cathy Ann Viveiros remarked that Torres was hired as a full time corporation counsel and given a hefty raise to reflect his full time status. Stylos however also remarked that he really had no issue with Attorney Torres moonlighting. The two engaged in some slight banter that I took for as being tougue in check saying that if he WAS going to moonlight he should at least not show up on the front page of the newspaper, especially in a less than flattering light.

That's when the phone rang. Apparently the call came in on the 'hot line' and when Stylos picked up Attorney Steven Torres was on the other end. Apparently working more than one job does not keep him from being a dedicated listener. In 5 seconds it was clear that Attorney Torres did not like the fact that this was being discussed on air but he attempted to clarify the situation and set the record straight. If I understood it correctly, he was brought on as special counsel in Wareham before taking the Fall River job and that despite what the Standard Times article would suggest he was not the reason for the delay. He further went on to say that he felt this report could have been done in-house by the town but that they voted to hire him to oversee the effort.

At this point I'm thinking that this guy is WAY too insecure and that if he had ongoing jobs maybe he shouldn't have accepted a full time position but he explained the situation this will probably be a non-issue. If he had only hung up the phone.

Instead over the next several minutes Attorney Torres proceeded to RANT. He wasn't happy that this was brought up on the radio and said that Stylos could have simply contacted him first. Ah Ha! Stylos responded that he did call and sent emails, with no reply. Torres then went after Cathy Ann saying that she was attacking him as a way to get back at the Mayor for beating her in the last election! He threatened to lodge complaints and go to advertisers all for mentioning a story that was reported, not by WSAR, but by another news agency.

Lefty's View: With one phone call Attorney Torres has changed the story from should he be moonlighting to does this man have any sense of judgment or self-control! The arrogance and display of egotism was infuriating. Does this man really feel that he is beyond reproach, that he is infallible? Whether Attorney Torres likes it or not his actions as a public figure are fair game for public discussion. Certainly his working for Wareham while serving in a full time capacity in Fall River is worthy of at some dialogue. Mr. Torres needs to realize that when he calls in to the local radio station or talks with a reporter he does so as Fall River's corporation counsel and he should conduct himself in a manner worthy of that position. When he rants and raves on live radio he embarrasses not only himself but the people of Fall River. When he threatens to take action against the local radio station for discussing a completely truthful news report he tarnishes our ideal of freedom of speech and instead embraces the mentality of a police state.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Question for the Candidate – Derek Maksy

Derek Maksy is the Republican candidate for the First Bristol & Plymouth District seat in the Massachusetts State Senate.  This is the seat that Joan Menard has held for the last decade and that she is now vacating.  I asked Mr. Maksy why he feels he should be the candidate of choice for the people of Fall River. What is it about his platform, leadership style, and goals that best represent the needs and interests of the people of Fall River? Below are excerpts from his response, with my commentary. The entire unedited response can be read here.

Mr. Maksy said I believe people are tired of the same old politics as usual, that is why I am running for the vacant State Senate seat.

Mr. Maksy also has the unenviable luck to run against an established opponent, someone who is well known to Fall River voters. Perhaps if people are really tired of the same old politics that will be a good thing, however I saw and heard very little from the Maksy campaign until after the primary election.

Mr. Maksy said elections are about validation for a job well done or a work in progress, and my track record shows you both.

The problem is I don't think the people of Fall River are really all that familiar with Derek's track record. I think more needed to be done before the primary election to introduce Mr. Maksy to the people of Fall River. Now? Well at this point if you don't know his track record are you really taking the time to find out about it?

Mr. Maksy said state government must make more cuts to its budget without reducing local aid. As high school and college graduates and other job seekers struggle to find jobs, Mr. Maksy firmly believes it is the responsibility of Beacon Hill to provide the necessary resources to promote these jobs in our district.

This certainly rings as music to the ears of the average Fall River resident.  It's also a refreshing change from the attitude of our last Republican governor who kept the state in the black by drastically cutting local aid and basically shifting the burden to cities and towns.

Mr. Maksy said. "We have to stop the State unfunded mandates. We have to reduce government spending. Right now, we need to get our house in order and stop putting the burden on the taxpayers."

What unfunded mandates is he referring to? Where would he reduce spending? It's so easy to make these types of statements and by not offering specifics there is little chance in upsetting anyone. Still the idea is one we can all agree with.

Mr. Maksy, a current Lakeville selectman, has dealt with the cuts the state has passed down to the cities and towns. He has served on the Zoning Board of Appeals in Lakeville, the Middleboro Planning Board, Downtown Revitalization Committee, and Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District and he believes in term limits.

I have to say I like this level of experience because I think it gives him a good grasp on the struggles of cities and towns in the current economic climate. It's one thing to represent us in Boston and here about how tough it is and another completely to actually struggle with the realities of local aid cuts, dwindling tax revenues etc.  How many terms is the candidate pledging to serve?

Mr. Maksy and his wife Madelyn have two daughters. He put himself through college and has a degree in Business Administration, engineering, as well as a master's in public administration. He is a third generation farmer and a self-employed contractor. He also works for the Dept. of Transportation as a traffic signal supervisor of which he would resign if elected.

This is all sounds pretty good to me….

Mr. Maksy said. "Contrary to my opponent's opinion, commuter rail service being extended to Fall River and New Bedford would be a benefit to the region, as long as it does not have to be completely subsidized by the taxpayers". Mr. Maksy said the commuter rail service has been a success in Lakeville. "It's a great means of transportation to higher paying jobs in Boston," Mr. Maksy said. "It just needs to be managed like a business."

I'm not sure exactly what Mr. Maksy is stating about his opponents opinion here. A quick check confirmed his opponent is all for commuter rail. Now personally I have always had major concerns about the cost of bringing commuter rail to the region and the cost of maintaining it. However I think the reality is that rail service has a history of something that depends on government subsidy. If Mr. Maksy is elected and wants to make self sustaining commuter rail service a priority of his tenure I would applaud the effort, but I'd like to know how he thinks he can make that a reality.  

Mr. Maksy said bringing a casino to the region is great for economic development (my opponent disagrees). If a casino is built in the region, Mr. Maksy said there must be a mechanism to give the license fees from it to all surrounding cities and towns and not the State, the fee will help the area with infrastructure needs and social problems that come with a casino.

Well of course, I do not favor a casino, but the idea of giving the license fees to surrounding cities and towns is an interesting one. I think this would make the whole idea of legal gaming in Massachusetts less appealing if these fees went to just a few communities rather than the state as a whole. I think Mr. Maksy would have a hard time gaining much support for this in the Senate.

Mr. Maksy also feels the state should live within its means as well as reduce the current sales tax of 6.25 percent to five percent.

"If the state would lived within its means like its residents, there would have never been a need for a 20 percent increase in sales tax," Mr. Maksy said. "We need to rollback the sales tax and stop putting everything on the backs of the taxpayer."

On the surface I think many of us would support rolling the sales tax back to 5%. However how do you do that? Saying that the state needs to live within its means does little to say where cuts can and should be made. If you want to say the state needs to work with less revenue you need to suggest areas where cuts can made and money saved.

If elected, Mr. Maksy will propose a reduced tax exemption (61C) for folks over 65 like the current tax exemptions for Agricultural and Recreational  (61A AND 61B). 

I actually like this idea a lot. It's not something I think many would necessarily think a Republican candidate would be suggesting but I think such relief is needed ESPECIALLY in communities like Fall River. Without reading up on the specifics on 61A and 61B I can only say that not every senior over 65 needs such relief.

Mr. Maksy said the state can not afford its current pension system, and that it must not be subsidized by the tax payers

If Derek Maksy wins election and did NOTHING else but help revamp our pension system he would boast a successful legislative career. Pensions are literally crippling cities and towns but how do you overhaul the system? Any attempt will be met with great resistance from all the people who currently benefit from the current system. Still, this is an area that needs attention NOW. I just wish Mr. Maksy had included some specific ideas on changes that could be made.

Mr. Maksy said.  "I need everyone's vote on November 2 and I won't let you down"

I thank Derek Maksy for submitting his response to A View From Battleship Cove. His entire unedited response can be read here.